Bottom Row (Seated from left to right): Ed Scopelitis/ South Carolina, Ted Andriopoulos/ Tennessee, Jordan
Weismore/ Syracuse, NY, Lucas Krillies/ Tampa, FL, Chris Karalekas/ Huntington, NY Mgr., George Gangines/ Astoria,NY, Tom Baryotakis/ Sioux City, Iowa, George
Top Row: Gus Karalekas/ Astoria, NY -GM, George Kontos/ Chicago, IL, Peter Balis/ Chicago, IL., Mike Giampilis/ Whitestone, NY, Dimitri Paleokrassas/ Westchester,NY, James Zervogiannis/ Ann Arbor, MI, David Vanech/ Rhode Island, Fotis Ruscin/ Philadelphia, PA.
As only the gods would have it, some fourteen American men of Greek descent knowing absolutely nothing about each other boarded a plane from JFK International Airport in late June of 2003. They shared only a god given gift to play baseball, a Greek heritage, and as they would find out, an experience that they would never forget.
These select men were recruited through a nationwide search by Gus Karalekas of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, along with Chris Karalekas, founder of Baseball Acropolis.
The bringing together of young Greeks from all
over the world
(Australia, America, Canada & Greece) for a
world-class event called The Elliniada Games, took place in the capital of Ecumenical Hellenism, Thessaloniki Greece.
This enormous undertaking a year prior to the
2004 Olympic Games proved to be a huge success. Largely through the tireless efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the General Secretary of Greeks
Abroad, the Ministry of Culture and the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, the first ever ELLINIADA GAMES successfully established and celebrated the greatest
athletic and cultural meeting of Greek youth from all over the world.
Interestingly, most of the Greek American
baseball team represented a cross-section of the United States, and never played together before. Boys came from Knoxville, Chicago, Sioux City, Tampa,
Philadelphia, Charleston, Ann Arbor, Syracuse and New York City.
Fascinatingly, an outside observer watching the
first team practice would have marveled at the seamless way the team worked out. Even members of the local press in Greece asked how many years had the team
been together? Remarkably, it was a surreal testament to the player’s talent, ethic, and an intangible spirit of familiarity. None of the boys could put their
finger on it, but it was as if they had played together before.
Whatever the dynamic was, it inspired the team
to embrace the ideals of sport and of the Olympic spirit, and in the end exemplify and celebrate the uniqueness of the Hellenic value and spirit within.
Team Acropolis, representing the USA in the
first ever ELLINIADA Games in Salonika ended up winning the first Championship Cup. By defeating a pool of Hellenes from Australia, Canada, and an all-star team
from Greece - Team USA dramatically came from behind (down 8-3 in the 3rd inning) in the final round
game to defeat a very talented National Greek Team 14-8, coached by Dimitri Goussios. Dimitri has been a driving force of positive energy from day one, in his
endless desire and love to grow and teach the game in Greece, as Technical Director of the Hellenic Amateur Baseball Federation in Greece.
Panos Mitsiopoulos, the President of the
federation was present at the Games and was most gracious in reciprocating with gifts that his players exchanged with ours. The federation should be proud of
what its accomplished, and Panos and Dimitri have tirelessly dedicated themselves to have the game where it is today in Athens.
Forever etched in everyone’s memory will be
the rewarding experience of sharing the game of baseball with Greek youth from all over the world. To be able to give equipment to the children in attendance at
the games was special. Having a chance to speak Greek, and seeing the beauty of Greece for the first time was memorable. Last, but not least, to have
represented your country as an American of Greek descent, and as an ambassador of baseball enhances the memory.
Team Acropolis (USA) may have won the first
ever ELLINIADA Games competition – but there were really no losers. From every possible perspective the Games were a win/win for everyone
involved…spiritually, culturally, and athletically.
“I’ve never seen a finer collection of
talented amateur baseball players and boys of high quality character. These boys had Herculean hearts to match their skills. Everyone back home would have been
proud to see these boys carry themselves on and off the field. Coaching them was an honor”, said Coach Chris Karalekas. Additionally, coach said, “ The team
Greece had was outstanding. I saw many of those boys just three years ago, and to see the improvement of their play was impressive. It’s a great example of
their work ethic, and proves to me that the Greek athlete, given the resources and facilities can play this game with anyone in the world. Build it and they
PLAYER NAME/ NICKNAME/ BRIEF HIGHLIGHT
TOM BARYOTAKIS…(Sioux City) started & won
game one of the Games vs Australia. Great control pitcher like Maddux but great desire.
FOTIS RUSCIN…( Pennsylvania) saved game one
& started game two vs Greece. Can throw smoke, but can focus like Clemens.
GEORGE KONTOS…( G-Unit) had 3 HR & 8 RBI,
& played flawless shortstop. Scholarship & great future no surprise given his raw talent. Sky’s the limit on the diamond.
ED SCOPELITIS…( Scope) had 3 HR & 7 RBI,
played phenomenal CF & replaced injured teammate behind the plate in the championship game in dramatic fashion to lead our team to victory. Natural athlete
& no surprise here as an All-America. Fierce competitor beyond words.
GEORGE GANGINES…(Double-G) played stellar
defense behind the plate, and his play calling and leadership was pivotal to our victory. He was another coach on the field, and a great teammate.
LUCAS KRILLIES….(Magilla) was the glue to the
infield at 2B and at the top of the order setting the table. As cool as they come. Nothing rattles him.
DAVID VANECH…(D-Van) 2 HR & his smooth
and stable presence at 1B anchored our infield. Great quiet leader, with passion for the game and his mates.
PETE BALIS…(Rico) 2 HR & 5 RBI was minor
contribution compared to rock solid leadership he provided, no doubt aided by his experience as a pro basketball player in Greece. Jewel of a man and jewel of a
JASON WEISMORE….(J-Weis) simply did it
all….2 HR, 4 RBI, 6 R, flawless in the outfield and came on in relief in final game to shut the door down so that Team USA could make up the deficit to come
from behind 8-3 in the 3rd inning. Don Mattingly-like player. Gamer & gentleman.
DIMITRI PALEOKRASSAS…(Tree) solid DH belted
key HR & solidified lineup…always kept teammates loose & great passion.
MIKE GIAMPILIS….( G-Man) 3 H, 3 R, and great
versatility at both 3B & RF…invaluable player, true gentleman & quietest New Yorker on the team.
TOM ANDRIOPOULOS…(Coomer) smooth stroke and
presence as ultimate team player had 3 AB’s and 3 hits…like Ted Williams, Tom could hit coming out of bed at night.
GEORGE PAPOUTSAKIS…(Pop) extremely versatile
infielder & pitcher with gifted arm and “team first” attitude plugged holes defensively and kept all his teammates on their toes.
JAMES ZERVOGIANNIS…(Zorba) drew crucial walk
in game one, and adeptly taught his mates how to ride the umpires with choice Greek verbiage. Veteran leadership came in handy on bus rides as he helped
explain, in vintage fashion, the significant history of our heritage.
GUS KARALEKAS…his contribution and
collaborative efforts made this team possible. With many administrative responsibilities in his role on the World Council of Hellenes, he is to be lauded and
thanked for the passion and commitment he brought to this effort.
NICK KONTOS….assistant coach, but a more
wonderful man, or genuine man cannot be found. What a joy to have had him with us.
CHRIS KARALEKAS (Skip)…” For one week I
managed a Dream Team of great baseball players, but greater men. To have shared this pilgrimage with these men in Greece is a privilege I will cherish. It was
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